The anti-monopoly power movement is notable in that it is one of the few major topics to enjoy bipartisan support in Congress – though skeptics rightly point out that if Democrats and Republicans agree that the US economy suffers from a competition problem, they disagree. on what steps to take to resolve it.
But this division is not as prevalent at the state level, where attorneys general have banded together in bipartisan lawsuits against big tech companies like Facebook Inc. FB,
and GOOG from Alphabet Inc.,
Google, and where even Republican law enforcement has shown a willingness to work with officials Biden-appointed at agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to prosecute companies that violate laws designed to promote competition.
This bipartisanship was on display at the National Association of Attorney General Consumer Protection conference on Tuesday, where the heads of these agencies were invited to talk about their consumer protection efforts and how they can work with them. key officials responsible for enforcing state laws to achieve these goals.
The conversation quickly turned to pro-competition policy, with Acting Director of the Consumer Financial Bureau Dave Uejio telling the audience that “competition policy has never been more important than it is today. “Because” competition is the best way to ensure that consumers have power in their transactions with businesses.
Acting Federal Trade Commission Chairman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter presented the FTC lawsuit against Facebook, joined by 48 attorneys general from 46 states, the District of Columbia and Guam, in a bid to strengthen protection for consumers.
“In digital markets… we see huge consumer protection issues” related to privacy, the use of consumer data and harassment, Slaughter said. “It comes from platforms that have enormous market power. “
Google is also the subject of a joint lawsuit brought last fall by the Antitrust division of the Department of Justice in partnership with 13 state attorneys general, while an even larger lawsuit was brought by a bipartisan coalition of 38 state attorneys general. The Department of Justice and the FTC are also would have investigated Amazon.com Inc. AMZN,
and Apple Inc. AAPL,
for violating federal competition laws.
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Although Democrats and Republicans are more in agreement that big tech companies specifically need more in-depth antitrust scrutiny, the proliferation of high-tech components in products ranging from home appliances to farm equipment has made this less useful distinction, according to Slaughter.
She pointed to a report commissioned by Congress the FTC last week submitted a review of the issue of manufacturers’ restrictions on who can repair products, highlighting how companies are squeezing more revenue from consumers by creating products that cannot be repaired by third parties.
Advocates of the “right to repair” cited Apple’s iPhone as an example of a product designed to become obsolete in a short time, along with John Deere’s DE,
agricultural material. “The phone or tractor you buy quickly becomes a big junk pile,” Slaughter said of such tactics.
Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut also appeared at the conference, offering his support to state AGs and federal authorities and urging them to show “push and courage” when it comes to enforcing antitrust laws. . Blumenthal is a co-sponsor of a recent bill that would increase the resources of federal antitrust authorities and give them greater power to block mergers and dismantle companies engaging in anti-competitive practices. A similar bill is also before the House.
“Too often, agencies lag behind and lack implementation,” he said. “If the laws are not enforced, they are a dead letter. “